University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) Health Sciences Library
- Project Title: Engaging for Health in Rural North Carolina Communities
- Program Representatives Interviewed: Nandita Mani, Director and Associate University Librarian for Health Sciences Library, and Terri Ottosen, Health Literacy Librarian
- Location: North Carolina
Program Overview: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) Health Sciences
Library (HSL) is committed to advancing health literacy and other efforts that improve health outcomes and
well-being. The HSL works to raise awareness and educate healthcare providers, librarians, and the public on
the effects of health literacy on individuals and the healthcare system. Aligned with this work, the HSL
received a grant from the Network of the National Library of Medicine (NNLM) to lead an outreach project in
collaboration with 12 public libraries across four rural counties in North Carolina.
The Engaging for Health in Rural North Carolina Communities project aims to 1) empower public library staff to answer consumer questions about health services and 2) provide a program to support community members in improving health literacy and increasing awareness of trustworthy sources of health information. Four health sciences librarians delivered these workshops and used the train-the-trainer model to build capacity among library staff. They provided local libraries with best practices for conducting community needs assessments and encouraged them to use information gathered to guide program development and better understand community needs.
The HSL developed content for the project by modifying and adapting three existing NNLM consumer health courses, including:
- Beyond an Apple a Day: Providing Consumer Health Information at Your Library
- Health and Wellness @ the Library: The Essentials of Providing Consumer Health Services
- Engage for Health (developed by the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania and its Pennsylvania Hospital Engagement Network)
To identify the rural areas most in need of this training and to select specific public libraries to partner with, HSL used National Assessment of Adult Literacy data to create a map displaying literacy rates across the state and partnered with librarians working in North Carolina Area Health Education Centers (AHECs).
Another resource offered by HSL is the Ask HSL service, a web-based forum where consumers can ask questions about health and other topics. Contact information is on the Ask Us page with the option to text, call, or request a consultation with an HSL librarian. A health sciences librarian responds to the questions. The HSL is also developing a toolkit to address health misinformation from social media platforms, such as Twitter and TikTok.